So, you've found your sites, what do you do when you get there? Don't ask me! I'm constantly changing my mind, proving theories one week, then disproving the same theory the next week. Below is this week's train of thought. Terms and conditions: this page is subject to change.
It's works for Fair Isle, it works for Covenham Reservoir and it works for the 4 (give or take) lone bushes at the Snook on Holy Island. We all know why islands such as Fair Isle are good, but the isolation thing definitely seems to work on much smaller scales. This autumn, instead of knacking my neck staring up into a vast stand of sycamores, I've opted to thrash (not literally) those windblown, stunted hawthorns in the middle of dunes slacks. Results (naturally) were mixed but I'm sticking with this one for the time being.
Mysterious, introspective and subconscious, maintaining a positive approach really is essential. If your 'head's up', you more likely to have a second scan through the Goldie flock, more likely to pursue the flighty and elusive acro and more likely to persist in getting a better look at the Herring Gull's tail. And before you know it, you've added AGP, Blyth's Reed and yank Herring Gull to your find list - as if by magic.
You've just arrived in the field, having read the 'Firsts for Britain' book in bed the night before. You're fired for rares, and the weather seems promising....but after 2 hours of hard work you've seen next to nowt. Your head drops and you begin to think about [insert a more pleasing thought]. This is point at which you need to dig a little deeper to maintain that initial focus, remember what you came out for (to find something good) and mentally recount the finding of the Rufous-tailed Robin.
Don't do it and your birding day proceeds as follows: arrive at estuary for low tide and realise everything's approx 320 miles way, depart to check the gull flock only to find the dog walkers got there first, plan to thrash the bushes to realise the birder's got there first, then finish things off with a scan of the completely silhouetted duck flock.
Finding White Storks is easy but Brunnich's Guillemot, juv Pacific Golden Plover and female Pine Bunting less so. Might take years of practice this one, but my guess is that there are a frightening number of cryptic species right under our nose. Learn these species, and you're onto a winner.